‘Happy Days’: Ron Howard Talks ‘Disrespect’ He Got Over Henry Winkler’s Popularity

by Chase Thomas
(Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Happy Days was not always happy for Ron Howard who received “disrespect” after Henry Winkler’s rise to stardom as The Fonz.

It had nothing to do with Winkler and Howard’s relationship while working on the program, no, it had to do with the executives disrespecting Howard from a business standpoint as The Fonz rose in popularity. It appears as though Winkler was looked at in a different light by the powers that be over Howard because of The Fonz’s popularity on the program over Richie Cunningham.

Howard revealed some heartbreaking realities he faced from the press while working on the show. “The press kept saying, ‘What’s it like? Do you feel that you’ve become a second-class citizen on your own show?’ and these kinds of things.” You can imagine the tension and awkwardness between Howard and the press. He knew that he was not as popular as Winkler’s character was on the show and he was not the star any longer. It was less Richie, more Fonz. That is just how everything played out over the course of the program. The problems arose, though, because of those kinds of questions being asked of Howard. And, really, how was he supposed to respond? Especially when you consider he and Winkler got along and was not resentful of the other’s success. It made for a really awkward time n his career, to be sure.

Howard continued, “Which I didn’t feel within the workspace. And I certainly didn’t feel it within our friendship, which endures to this day.” So, it’s nice to know that even though the questions were being asked by the press, that is not how things unfolded behind the scenes on Happy Days. The relationship between Howard and Winkler didn’t suffer because of the latter’s rise to fame. This story could have easily gone the other way, but it’s nice to know it did no such thing.

Henry Winkler and the Fonz on ‘Happy Days’

The fame came with a price for Winkler, too, though. He became a star as The Fonz. However, this is how folks, after the show ended, continued to see him. It was hard to shake the role for Winkler and it was a frustrating time for him, too. Winkler said of the issue, “People would say, ‘Wow, he’s funny. He’s such a good actor. But he was The Fonz’”.

He concluded, “And so they would pass me by. You have to learn to find the strength in yourself to deal with that, reinvent yourself, move on.” Just like Howard, Winkler dealt with his own issues from staring on Happy Days. Either way, both stars found success in Hollywood both as actors and directors later on in their careers.